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AILA: ICE Statement on Family Detention Ignores the Tragic Reality

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

Washington, DC - Victor Nieblas Pradis, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) responded to a recent statement on family detention from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with the following:

"In all my 19 years of experience as an immigration attorney, I have never heard a federal agency rewrite history to this extent. According to ICE, 'Family residential centers are an effective and humane alternative for maintaining family unity as families go through immigration proceedings or await return to their home countries.' This is the antithesis of the reality that AILA volunteer attorneys have heard from mothers and children and have seen with their own eyes as they fought tooth and nail to gain access to give these families a chance at due process, with ICE constantly making access as hard as possible, only grudgingly giving way after considerable pressure.

"The outcry from those volunteers to this doublespeak has been immediate and heartfelt: the public needs to know the alternate reality that ICE has fabricated doesn't exist. Children aren't playing normal games in the play rooms at Dilley; they are comparing court dates and how long they've been detained. Children aren't feeling secure and safe; they are trying to sleep and having the lights kept on all night in addition to multiple bed checks. Mothers who have fled from violence aren't made to feel safe by wan versions of medical care; they are confronted with the terror that they and their children might be sent back to danger at any moment - sometimes in the middle of the night without informing attorneys. This is what is happening.

"We take issue with ICE's talking point that 'individuals apprehended crossing the border illegally, including families, are an agency priority.' These kids and moms aren't crossing the border on a whim, they are attempting to seek asylum the only way they can: by turning themselves in to a border guard. Asylum seekers should not be an enforcement priority, the fact that they are calls into question whether the U.S. is following through on international treaties to which we are signatories.

"The only reason that the majority of those families detained have been bonded or released rather than deported is because immigration attorneys, paralegals, and translators refused to let it happen, despite every roadblock ICE threw up in the way. Despite what this statement would have you believe, those releases were in no way attained through the good graces of ICE. And, with over 2,000-and growing-still held in these internment camps, ICE's statement today is nothing but a grotesque façade."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 15062332.